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Women deacons? Best not to talk about it.

The archdiocese of Philadelphia is looking for someone to address its deacons this spring. Former heads of the USCCB's secretariat for the diaconate need not apply. Not, that is, if they have publicly acknowledged the unsettled question of whether women may be ordained deacons. That might be "doctrinally confusing," and Catholics these days are just so easy to confuse.

Last week the National Catholic Reporter's Joshua J. McElwee reported that William Ditewig, former USCCB staffer and co-author of Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future, had been denied permission to speak "to the [Philadelphia] archdioceses deacons, [deacons'] wives, and deacon candidates" this coming March, based on the decision of the archdiocesan "speaker approval commission."Just so we're clear: it is an open question whether it's possible for the Catholic Church to admit women to the diaconate. The latest Commonweal happens to have an article by Phyllis Zagano, one of Ditewig's Women Deacons co-authors, explaining where the matter stands today. "The conversation continues," she reports -- even among bishops. Was the speaker approval commission in Philadelphia unaware of this fact? They wouldn't comment, but an archdiocesan spokesperson said it didn't matter:

[Kenneth] Gavin said that since the matter is still considered unanswered Ditewig's presence for the deacon event wasn't appropriate.This wouldn't be the best setting for an open question or something that is a matter of debate theologically at this point in time and how the diaconate is structured within the church itself, said Gavin. It wasn't the setting for discussion on theological debate-like topics. This was ongoing formation. It's educational for the deacons and their wives.

Uh-huh. Ditewig, not surprisingly, tells NCR he wasn't planning on introducing any "debate-like topics" when he spoke in Philadelphia. But of course the commission didn't get in touch with him before they made their "negative recommendation."I knew the paranoia was getting pretty bad out there. Nobody wants to risk running afoul of the orthodoxy police; easier to just preemptively cancel any speakers/visiting professors who might give you trouble, regardless of whether the objections are well founded. But this is the most ridiculous example I've heard of yet. This diocese is afraid to allow the former head of the USCCB office for the diaconate to speak to its deacons, because said deacon has demonstrated an awareness of and interest in scholarly study of...the diaconate? As the NCR article reminds us, "In his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II declared that the church 'has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.'" And as you know, that was followed by orders that the matter must not be spoken of again.

This is where that policy has gotten us: nearly two decades later, the mere mention of the words "women" and "ordained" in the same sentence, even in a sentence that does not actually run afoul of the no-women-priest-talk rule, is enough to shut everything down. It's a farce. It's like that Monty Python sketch where anytime anyone says "mattress" to the mattress salesman, he puts a bag over his head. Very hard to get anything done in that environment. In this case the archdiocese doesn't even have anything coherent to say for itself -- except this: "Speakers for archdiocesan events, said Gavin, are supposed to be reviewed by the speaker commission before an invitation is extended to them, which did not occur in Ditewig's case." That's an excuse I've heard before. It means, "It's not our fault you found out about this indefensible decision we were hoping not to have to defend." It's not really an explanation at all, and -- hey bishops! -- you should probably stop using it.

When the mere thought of someone maybe provoking a discussion of the possibility of women's ordination is enough to freak everyone out, I can't help wondering why the people who are most dedicated to supporting the official line -- that Rome simply doesn't have the authority to ordain women priests -- don't act like they believe it. This, I guess, is what I'm confused about. Because here's what they say: It's not sexism at all. It's not that the all-male hierarchy is unwilling to share any sort of authority with women. It's just that this particular role isn't open to women -- our hands are tied! If that's true, and if the members of the speaker approval commission in Philly (for example) believe it's true, shouldn't we all be thrilled to discover other areas in which the sharing of authority with women might be possible? Shouldn't the response from bishops and diocesan officials be: "Look, the historical record suggests that women might be eligible for the diaconate! Surely we should investigate this carefully, and respect the work of those who are doing just that, because ordaining women as deacons, if possible, would be an excellent way to live up to our church's own teachings about the equal dignity of men and women and their equal responsibilities as members of Christ's body." Or you might look, as you know I like to do, at the case of female altar servers. Rome has clarified that there is no doctrinal reason, absolutely none, that women cannot serve in this lay ministry alongside men. Here, then, is an opportunity to prove that the refusal to even discuss the possibility of women serving as priests is not, at its root, just squeamishness about the idea of women serving at or near the altar. "We can't admit women to the priesthood," I keep waiting for conservative bishops and theologians to say, "but happily we can include them in the fullness of the church's life and worship in a variety of other ways. What a positive thing for our church."I keep waiting for more bishops and diocesan officials and self-appointed keepers of orthodoxy to say things like that. Why don't they, do you think?

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In my travels today I saw a 2003 article about deacons by Phyllis ... Women Deacons - the fears of Rome.

Crystal Watson wrote: "In my travels today I saw a 2003 article about deacons by Phyllis Women Deacons the fears of Rome."I was interested to see this in that article:" It depends rather on the work of ITC member Gerhard L. Mller, a theology professor named bishop of Regensburg, Germany, during the fall 2002 ITC meeting. A number of theologians disagree with Mllers assertions that women never were and never can be sacramentally ordained, but they are either not mentioned or relegated along with Vagaggini to footnotes."Now the Prefect of the CDF

Jeanne --But symbols *are* arbitrary -- anything can symbolie anything. And this is precisely the reason why women too can symbolize Christ.But it's true that it is sometimes useful to have a symbol be partly like what it symbolizes. But it is not necessary. And, as you point out, there are different aspects of Christ which are meant to be symbolized -- his love, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, etc., etc. But women are just as capable of signifying those qualities as men are. Women cannot be iconic symbols of Jesus' masculinity, but being a Christian is not identical with being masculine. Being a line-backer in the NFL is essentially masculine, but loving is not. For this reason, women can signify Jesus as well as men can, though they cannot iconically signify a line=backer.I'd say that Aquins is probably the greatest of Catholic theologians, but nobody is perfect. And in practice he didn't seem to think that women can't be leaders. The Duchess (?) of Braganza wrote to him asking for some advice about how to govern her people well, a very "masculine" occupation. He took her very seriously and wrote a fine letter back which obviously assumes that she was capaable of governing.

The Supplement of the Summa was compiled by Rainaldo da Piperno, reshuffling Thomas' commentary on the Fourth book of the Sentences. So it's Thomas edited. However, it's often missed that this part of the Summa represents Thomas' earliest work, not his mature thought. But yes, that's an interesting turn of phrase, that a deaconess is someone who does some of what a deacon does. But to do an act is not the same as holding the office or having the authority, istm. And I agree that Thomas' anthropology was fine for his time, but not for ours. Paul's an interesting character--letters that are genuinely Pauline have a very inclusive view of ministry.

Is there any good theological (or sociological,) work on the transitional vs permanent diaconate? Are permanent deacons "second class" deacons, in the way that it has been said recently that women priests are second class priests in the Church of England because they cannot become bishops? A word from our Commonweal deacons would be helpful here. Permanent deacons do, for example, seem to be kept in separate training programs. Is that an issue for anyone? Istm that women deacons would be permanent deacons, at least for now, so the question of second-class status is significant.

Are permanent deacons "second class" deacons?Yes.They're not on the prescribed "career path".

Are permanent deacons second class deacons?No. They have a different charism.

"Are permanent deacons second class deacons?""No. They have a different charism"John Hayes: precisely. Thanks for seeing this, and for saying it.

Thank you for this blog post and its incisive wit, Mollie. It made me laugh about a topic that usually makes me cry!

To John Hayes: I read that same document and was fairly dumbfounded (though not surprised, since it was Madison. Don't they have some kind of a university there, too?) What really interests me is how one is supposed to detect FUTURE members of Wisdoms Well? Those Madison folks must be very talented indeed. Or else it falls into a category like "unconstitutionally vague." The real tragedy is that Bishop Morlino and company seem intent on keeping the rich contemplative heritage of the Church from ordinary people. Seems to me it was Thomas Aquinas who insisted that contemplative prayer was potentially available to ALL. And the Sinsinawa Dominicans descend from his illustrious line.Another case of "Stick out foot; fire gun."

To Bernard Dauenhauer et al: Just today, in a different context (regarding Rome's new rules for Catholic social service and charitable organizations) I averred that asking bishops to oversee such matters was akin to the role of political commissars in the USSR. More sovietization, though not intellectual. Coincidence? The notion must be in the air. Perhaps the Spirit at work?

It seems that the Archdiocese is simply looking for a speaker to enhance the comprehension and enlarge the spirits of the current deacons. Consequently, it doesn't want to turn that event into a forum for the question of how the diaconate should be or might be or can't be or must be changed - which, I could understand, is seen as a matter for another venue. So, for instance, if the Navy were holding a Pacific-Fleet assembly for - say - aircraft carrier crews in order to enhance performance and sharpen a sense of the mission, it wouldn't necessarily want to bring in a speaker whose basic point is that carriers are as outmoded today as battleships were a long time ago. That sort of thing. Also, I am always very careful in using the marvelous Monty Python repertoire to illustrate points. Those lads are equal-opportunity ideology-bashers, and their works are notoriously bi-valent. Think of some of those classic exchanges in "Life of Brian":Stan wants to be a woman and to be called Loretta because he wants to 'ave bybies'; and in response to Reg's observation that 'Ya cahn't 'ave bybies, Stan' Stan retorts 'Don't you oppress me!' ... the problem (sort of not) resolved by the suggestions that Stan's not being able to 'ave bybies' "is nobody's fault, not even the Romans" and that "we fight for Stan's symbolic right to 'ave bybies". While many of the comments here are certainly relevant to the Questions about Chuch doctine and papal authority and so forth, the core issue here is - I think - whether the deacons' convocation is a suitable venue for them, since the convocation is meant to serve the purpose of enhancing their skills and spirit, not primarily to use them as a justification for venting theological disputations.

But Joe, is there any reason to think that Ditewig's presentation to the deacons in Philly would have focused on "the question of how the diaconate should be or might be or cant be or must be changed"? Presumably that is not what they asked him to do. He told NCR he had no intention of doing that. The speakers commission, of course, never bothered to ask that question. They just decided that the fact that Ditewig had ever addressed the subject ruled him out as someone fitting to "enhance the comprehension and enlarge the spirits" of their deacons -- despite the fact that he seems, by any rational measure, to be the most qualified person in the country for that job.So long as we're being "careful" about invoking Monty Python, you might recall Stan's friends explaining that he can't have babies because he doesn't have a womb. How one's reproductive organs affect one's qualifications for the diaconate is much less clear.

With no inside line to the speakers-commission thinking, my thought is that they figured it would be better all around not to take a chance that either a) Mr. Ditewig would get carried away with a subject that is demonstrably close to his heart or that b) somebody in the diaconate audience would raise the point for him in a Q&A or c) demonstrations conveniently held outside would provide a pretextual prompt for him to get into the matter. None of these possibilities is off the table especially if anyone has read their Alinsky and such. My point with the Python reference was simply to point out the bi-valence of some of the most acute Python material when it comes to ideological stances generally. However, since the point has been brought up, I can only agree that the complexities of those realities signified by the term the womb are certainly less clear, and by that I would mean highly contested and frankly contestable. All of which points to the fact that a convocation intended to enhance and support present deacons ministry is probably not the place for either theological or ideological treatment of highly disputable issues. Of course, it is Alinsky (and Gramsci and Lenin) 101 that the cadres should take every possible opportunity not to debate but rather to put their spin out there as vividly and emotionally and attention-gettingly as possible. Surely this projected convocation would fit the bill for such a venue. And perhaps the speakers-commission is trying to avoid as much of that as possible, in order to accomplish what I take to be the Archdioceses primary objective of enhancing the knowledge, skill, and spirit of the present deacons rather than having their convocation turned to the primary purposes of other agendas.

I'm sure you're right, Joe, that the commission was taking a better-safe-than-sorry approach. It's just that I think the level of caution that leads to a decision like this one -- a situation in which "caution" becomes straight-up paranoia -- is a very unhealthy state of affairs. Alinksy? Lenin? Honestly.If the members of the speaker approval commission were really that concerned that Ditewig's talk might end up straying into controversial topics, they had a couple of options: they could contact the event organizers to ask them what they had in mind for the talk and what they'd told Ditewig about their expectations. Or, they could contact Ditewig directly to ask him just what he planned to say. Of course if they had done those things they would have had to say out loud, "We are worried about this person's positive attitude toward inquiry into the church's history of ordaining women to the diaconate." So they just decided to say no, he is not allowed to speak in this diocese (at all, per their "recommendation"). And then they cried foul when people found out. And it's Ditewig we should suspect of agenda-driven subversion of what should be an opportunity for enrichment? Where does this stop? Must we cancel all public (or semi-private) discussions of the faith, just in case someone brings up something awkward or off-topic? If the man who once headed the USCCB's secretariat for the diaconate cannot be trusted to talk to deacons, who can?

On the other hand, aren't we lucky the bishops had time in their busy schedules to insist that only one approved text for the Lamb of God be used at all Masses? Jesus (the real Lamb) weeps.

My background interest is in 20th century organized manipulation of public opinion (beginning with the reflections of LeBon about the manipulation of mass public opinion in the 1890s), following the dual track of a) the organized propaganda of ideologically-motivated cadres inside or outside of government and b) advertising as it developed under such thinkers as Bernays. Within (a) are the numerous historical examples of Fascism and Communism (including Lenins thoughts on how to get what you want from a large and established target organization and from Gramsci who gave much thought about how to pull all this off in a functioning democracy using its own methods, and from whom Alinsky descends) and within (b) are the examples of advertising in the consumerist mode and public relations as it is practiced nowadays. I am not primarily concerned with Content of agendas as I am with Method, and looking at this diaconate convocation I can see rather clearly the lineaments of the type of activity one would normally see in ideological, vanguard-elite-managed issues. And that one would certainly see in Alinskys prescriptions as well as familiar patterns from 20th-century history as I indicated above. Nor is Alinsky irrelevant to matters here, since his Method has been rather widely-adopted in this country in the past 40 years for a wide variety of reform-seeking activity. If that seems a bit far afield, I can only recommend reading his Rules for Radicals. Having done so, then observing the various maneuverings here and there assumes a far richer and more complex (if perhaps even disturbing) density and texture. And anyone familiar with Alinsky (and perhaps the speakers-commission has had a bit of time to do some reading) would realize that no amount of prior agreement or negotiating would in any way guarantee what would happen once the lights, mikes, and cameras were irrevocably switched on: the Method I discussed above would by that point have already won its objective: either the target organization (the Archdiocese in this case) would have to permit the event to continue in whatever direction it was now being taken (regardless of whatever prior assurances it had been given) or it would have to publicly and overtly shut down the whole convocation a Win-Win for the Method either way: its desired topic is publicly discussed or the convocation is shut down and claims of repression and oppression can quickly be raised. The target organization in this case the Archdiocese is made the mule to carry the machinery of its own undoing in the matter, which is precisely a Gramscian symmetry. And perhaps the speakers-commission has done a bit of reading and realizes that this is the Game being played and these are the rules of the Method being deployed, and has made the prudent but also shrewd move of refusing to permit the situation from even getting to the Lose-Lose point for the Archdiocese by simply not running the risk in the first place.Everything else mentioned in the 445PM comment is subsumed under the rubrics I have discussed here. No doubt, in the Methods optimal scenario for this matter, the Archdiocese would have to admit that it did not want Mr. Ditewigs clearly primary concerns to become the central focus of the convocation it was running for another (and hardly irrelevant or unnecessary) purpose, i.e. the enhancement of the pastoral competence and spiritual growth of the current deacons. But this simply demonstrates in a comment precisely the agenda of the Method as it is being deployed in this matter: use the convocation for the purposes of our side in the ideological dispute diaconate-eligibility exactly as the Method would require. Meanwhile, the enhancement of the pastoral competence and spiritual growth of the current deacons gets lost in the ideological maneuvering. From a Method point of view, Id be interested in how a simple refusal to invite somebody became a public matter in the first place. The Method would call for somebody to leak it in order to create a cause clbre to be deployed in the service of the leaking party or parties. Nor, thus, would I minimize this diaconate-convocation matter as simply a refusal-to-discuss whatever matter some party or parties wish to publicize (presuming, the Method would add, that the publicity can be controlled in the correct direction). The convocation is not for the purposes of doctrinal discussion (which I imagine would most surely result in what is more properly characterizable as a disputation); it is for the purpose as best I can discern of furthering the enhancement of the pastoral competence and spiritual growth of the current deacons. These two objectives discussion/disputation and enhancement are not compatible and indeed I think would work out to be mutually-exclusive, to the detriment of the current deacons enhancement. I think its not a matter of who can be trusted to talk to the deacons, but rather who is willing to accept the primacy of the objective of furthering the enhancement of the pastoral competence and spiritual growth of the current deacons and thus rejecting the distractions (or temptations, perhaps) of agendas (discussion/disputation) incompatible with that primacy. Folks may look at this matter as they wish. But I will share here that in light of theoretically established and historically demonstrable evidence, I find both the indicators of just those tactics and stratagems so often deployed by what I call for short-hand purposes the Method and also indicators that the Archdiocesan speaking-commission is taking precisely the most well-advised action in the face of those tactics and stratagems, i.e. avoiding the ride into that Valley in the first place. The deacons I hope will get their enhancement of pastoral and spiritual capability. I am sure they are in need of it and that it will bear much fruit for them and for the people of the Archdiocese to whom they minister. And let ideological disputations take place in a venue that will not compromise that vital and worthwhile project.

Joe, you seem convinced that Ditewig is a radical, which may be the reason you're so sanguine about the decision to blacklist him. On what basis do you make that judgment? For that matter, where do you get your information about what Ditewig's "clearly primary concerns" are? How many of his numerous publications on the diaconate do you think are about the possibility of ordaining women deacons (which, I keep having to note, is actually not such an outrageous subject, except in the most paranoid bunkers of so-caled traditionalism?). The problem, of course, is not that you think the commission ought to be reading Alinsky, but that the commission's members spent so little time reading Ditewig.I know you are eager to extend the benefit of the doubt to the Philly speaker approval commission, but you seem to have a mistaken view of their role and objective. It is not their job to find the best possible person to address the gathering of deacons planned for the spring. That was the job of the event's organizers, and they chose Deacon Ditewig, for a number of very obvious reasons. The speaker approval commission's job, in Philadelphia and in every other place where such things exist, is to spare the bishop and the diocese from having to endure uncomfortable criticism and attacks from people like the Cardinal Newman Society, the American Life League, "Fr. Z." -- any of the growing number of Catholics who make their living and reputation by accusing other Catholics of being traitors to the faith. Bishops want to avoid giving the appearance of sponsoring or even tolerating any opinion that deviates from the core teachings of the church. Even, as I said above, if that accusation could only be dishonest or unfair, they'd still rather avoid the problem. (This is known as courageous leadership.) Hence "commissions" like the one in Philly, which are set up to ask not "Is this speaker qualified for the job at hand?" But rather "Can we find anything in this speaker's background that might be twisted into fodder for an attack on the orthodoxy of this diocese?" And if that answer is yes -- as it is so often in Philadelphia, where the commission tasked with composing the blacklist is especially skittish -- then the speaker gets disinvited. Not consulted or even given a fair reading, because that is not the commission's job. Just blackballed. And when things go the way the diocese wants, even the person being blackballed doesn't find out about it. We know this not just because of "theoretically established and historically demonstrable evidence," but because we know what this commission determined in the case of Deacon Ditewig. They did not regretfully conclude, as you want to suggest, that his appearance might lead this particular convocation for deacons away from its intended purpose (silly as that would have been). That's what the diocesan spokesperson said, later, when flailing to defend an obviously wrong-headed decision. What the commission said -- and Phyllis Zagano has helpfully reproduced their complete "recommendation" in a comment above -- is that Ditewig is not approved to speak in the archdiocese at all, because he could be considered to hold opinions contrary to the magisterium. Even though, actually, he doesn't. In light of all of that, whether or not the archdiocese can find someone else to speak to its deacons is really the least of my concerns.

Mollie ==Could it be that the commission has *already* knows Alinsky? If their PR person has a degree in PR, isn't it likely the person knows about the Method? Also, Alinsky was a close friend of Jacques Maritain, a very conservative Catholic. That should give Alinsky some respect in conservative Catholic circles. (Not that he doesn't present problems to them :-)]My question is: why should the bishops assume that it is not in the interest of deacon formation to have the deacons hear purported radicals? Isn't that treating them like children? Oops -- I forgot, the bishops are the shepherds and we are the sheep.

To Molly: Im not certain and make no presumptions about Ditewigs basic ideological position. I gleaned from the above article that he supported womens ordination to the diaconate (which is his right and as Content his thoughts are not my concern here). My thought is that there exists in the mind of the Archdiocese (and again I have no inside line here) the strong possibility that one way or the other that topic will come up and perhaps even take-over the convocations agenda. In that way I am imagining that the speakers-commission is simply being prudent in avoiding the possibility; whether to prevent Mr. Ditewig being put in a difficult position or to prevent a topic being raised which will derail or distract the primary objective of the convocation. I am assuming here I will say that the purpose of the convocation is the pastoral and spiritual enhancement of the deacons capabilities to minister, and is not primarily a convocation for the purpose of discussing what is admittedly a contested topic (and one, as well, which may have larger doctrinal implications). I myself would consequently avoid using the term blacklist which is heavily freighted with the history of the Hollywood blacklist against suspected Communist sympathizers in the film industry back in the McCarthy era. I imagine that if the Archdiocese were to convene a forum precisely for the purpose of discussing the womens-ordination-to-diaconate subject, Mr. Ditewig would be and I would say that from what I have gleaned, should be a prime candidate to speak in such a forum. And again, I am assuming that the purpose of the convocation is not to raise such a contested doctrinal issue. And I would say that the women/diaconate issue is indeed heavily freighted, since it has so many doctrinal implications for diaconate and arguably priestly ordination. So whether such a subject is properly a topic to be raised in the convocation (as I imagine the convocation to be designed) would be a significant doctrinal distraction from the pastoral and spiritual objectives. I would certainly not be surprised if the Archdiocese isnt really willing to raise that subject especially in this convocation, since the subject has implications for the Church far beyond Philadelphia itself. But I am not at all denying the validity of the women/ordination topic itself as a matter for discussion or for a classic disputation. Its a matter of the proper venue or forum for that discussion/disputation. If the organizers of the convocation I had presumed it was somehow sponsored under the aegis of the Archdiocese itself had selected Mr. Ditewig as primary speaker, then the Archdiocese and naturally, I would say retains final say. If however this is not a convocation sponsored by the Archdiocese for the pastoral and spiritual enhancement of its deacons, then that would create a different situation. Again, I have no inside line and I am not greatly familiar with the specifics of the convocations initiating authority. I will say that it doesnt seem outr to me that bishops or the Archbishop in Philadelphia are hesitant to sponsor events where matters will be publicly discussed that might veer and perhaps sharply from the general doctrinal position of the Vatican. We are members of the Roman Catholic Church after all, and not a more congregational polity. Even Diarmaid MacCulloch who is not overly enamored of the Vatican-heavy Latin Church of the Western Rite (as he calls it) cannot avoid relating in his recent and hefty history of Christianity that the same vertebrate characteristic imparted by the Vaticans role in the Church has also resulted in a Church that has lasted for two millennia, where far more flexible and (I will say) invertebrate polities have disappeared into a miasm of differing illuminations and excitements or have found themselves unable to maintain a core corpus of beliefs sufficiently strongly held as to sustain the belief-needs of human beings over the long haul of Time. As in the human organism, vertebracy imparts shape, and shape by its very function limits the organism in the very process of giving it identity. (Although I suppose one might make the case that insects largely exo-skeletal, consisting of an internal bio-mush enclosed by an exterior shell will probably outlast humans. But that I think is part of the trade-off specific to our species: our shape is sufficiently robust as to impart solidity to us, and yet in the course of time it may be the far more flexible insects who will endure but at a particular and heavy cost to the quality of their being, as compared to humans. So too with the Church, although I am not here making the case or trying to imply that a totally monarchical and infallible belief-hegemon running the Church like the chief and central-brain of the Dalleks (a Dr. Who reference) is desirable. But even as MacCulloch points out, its been a long time since the Church gave up on the (seductive, in its way) vision of a universal spiritual world-monarchy centered on the Chair of Peter.) I retain my thought that the speakers-commission and the Archdiocese may well simply wish to avoid bringing up what is a rather central doctrinal disputation in a mere (if I may) Archdiocesan convocation of deacons. I am not fan of ecclesiatchiki (my term for the Church equivalent of the old Soviet bureaucratic apparatchiki), but I also respect the fact that there is a vital value to some level of coherence and uniformity, and some shape or Shape. I think that at this point in American Church history we must also face the consequences of what has been a rather robust embrace of Alinsky-ite Method for achieving desired changes, on the part of more than a few desiring change: given the oppositional and calculating strategizing that is endemic to Alinsky and his Method, we now face after a period of some very rackety decades a Church structure and officialdom that has become very wary of being made the target of the Method. Who can be surprised at this? Nor do I want to embrace a too-narrow Marxist power analysis of the hierarchy: that the old-boys are just trying to backlash and protect their own power. Somehow this Church has weathered storms over the millennia that have wrecked or reduced to irrelevance many other Christian polities. Yes, one must change to remain the same certainly. But the price of vertebracy is that the soft-organs have to work with the solid skeletal elements for the whole body to maintain survivability and viability. A certain invertebracy has its charms (as it did to my Boomer generation), but as I believe is becoming increasingly clear in wider cultural and social matters those charms and those advantages come, like all prescription wonder-drugs, with all sorts of side-effects, and some of them are lethal. Prudence is required here, I would say. We dont want to take our children to a pediatrician who is so adventurous as to prescribe the latest cutting-edge new drug regardless of any concern for larger and longer side-effects and consequences. And from what I recall of the very very good Sisters of my youth, you can still get an old-girl network in a convent that can easily rival the dynamics of any old-boy network in a seminary or other organizational level. Courageous is not what we look for in doctors. We want some very serious knowledge and prudence and to use the Latin gravitas. I am happy to see the old-school Archbishop-as-Political-Boss and CEO passing from the scene. I want to see a far more urgent and informed and developed spiritual and pastoral competence in the hierarchy. I want to see leadership but not the leadership too easily accorded to the stereotypical first-kid-with-the-portable-megaphone who got to the student union on a nice spring afternoon to lead the rush to burn down the ROTC building. There are, as any homeowner knows, load-bearing walls and decorative walls. The latter can be knocked down to taste; the former cannot be messed-with unless you want the roof to fall in. Or, as was learned the hard way on the Titanic, there are certain watertight-compartment walls (bulkheads, as they say in the trade) that cant be lightly compromised just to make it easier for passengers to mosey around the ship when the Dark Night comes with its strenuous frights and challenges, those bulkheads have to hold, even though on sunny afternoons they make it less easy to enjoy the aesthetics of sailing on an ocean-liner. Just what are the doctrinal decorative walls and just what are the doctrinal carrying-walls, just what are the doctrinal watertight-bulkheads and what are the doctrinal cabin-walls that can be re-arranged as desired these are the Questions requiring serious discernment in the Church, and I make no judgments here as to which are which. But the Church is a Vessel, just as each of us humans is a vessel, and the Life-Ocean is no Sunday-summer-afternoon pond. So Id like to see very serious and sober thinking and discerning all around, exercised by laity and hierarchy and clergy and theologians. For this, getting back to Alinsky, I think that serious and deeply prayerful gravitas is required all around: against (stereotypical) hierarchs who simply dont want things to change unless they feel like changing things and against (stereotypical) revolutionary and change-besotted ideologues who figure that anything is better than what we have now. Alinsky pretty much developed his Method (with much borrowing from Gramsci, Lenin, and many other conceptual forebears) on the presumption that authority is just another word for Doing It My Way (reminiscent I have always thought of the adolescents blithe assumption that adults are only on the planet to say No to him/her). We Catholics are the heirs and stewards of a most profoundly serious Mission and Purpose in this world. I pray as mightily as I can for all of those who seek change and for those who want to keep the Vessels integrity intact. If the Coast Guard cutter itself sinks (or sinks itself), what hope of rescue for those on the sea in the dark and stormy night? If, as you mention, the Archdiocese has determined that Mr. Ditewig holds or could hold opinions contrary to the magisterium, then I would hope that such an assessment was made with due gravity and seriousness and of course demonstrable accuracy. If some think that is not so, then I would certainly see the need for those persons to make their views known. An Open Letter might be an idea, sort of like putting up theses on the Church door and inviting all the believers to consider the matter. But let it be open and forthright and not with the frankly manipulative calculations and strategems of the Alinsky approach: the faithful, just like the Citizens of this country, cannot be manipulated like herds of cattle whether the trail-boss be a (stereotypical) self-satisfied hierarch who is the Deciderer over everybodys head or a (stereotypical) self-sure cadre hell-bent on achieving change over the heads of the benighted cattle who dont know where their own best interests lie anyway. None of which is intended to provide any conclusive assertions or prescriptions about the matter of the diaconate convocation. We are all regardless of station or vocation Catholics together on this Vessel. And I firmly believe that this Vessel has a vital and urgent role to play as a very fraught national future unfolds at an increasingly ominous pace.

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